South Sumatra


Land area 9,159,200 ha
Forest and peatland coverage 1,055,447 ha
Protected area Merang Peat Swamp Forest, Sembilang National Park, Bukit Barisan Selatan National Park
Biodiversity significance The Sembilang National Park (380,000 ha) is habitat to 35 globally endangered species and is the most complex shorebird community in the world.
The Merang Peat Swamp Forest is the last contiguous peat swamp in the province and is home to two critically endangered bird species.
Main economic activities
  • 32% of GDP: Mining (coal, gas, oil, lime, iron ore)
  • 18%: Manufacturing
  • 15%: Agriculture (rice and corn)
  • Transport, communication, trade and retail
  • Plantation: rubber, coffee, tea, sugarcane, palm oil
  • Inland fishery
Main threats to forest and peatlands
  • Commercial logging
  • Coal mining
  • Pulp paper plantations
  • Smallholder plantations: over 700,000 ha of land in South Sumatra has been converted into smallholder rubber area


Rainforest ecosystem in Sumatra

About South Sumatra

The province of South Sumatra is majorly defined by lowlands and has three million hectares of swampland, the second largest area in Sumatra. The Bukit Barisan Mountain Range stretching along the west coast gives way to vast, swampy plains that open into estuaries on the eastern side. From the peat forests inland to the mangrove forests on the coast, the swamps of South Sumatra are crucial and unique biodiversity hotspots.


The Sembilang National Park on the east coast is lush with swamp, mangrove and peat forests. It is home to the endangered Sumatran tiger and elephant, Malayan Tapir and various bird species. The 35 km coastal stretch of mangrove forests in the park is also vital for the reproduction of fish and shrimp, a source of food for local communities. The Merang Peat Swamp Forest covering 83,000 ha is also the last contiguous peat swamp area in South Sumatra and a crucial carbon stock.

South Sumatra economy

Over 60% of Sumatra’s economy is supplied by the exploitation of natural resources, including the mining of coal, gas, oil and lime. South Sumatra contains half of Indonesia’s coal resources and is the world’s third-largest exporter of liquefied natural gas. Mining occurs equally on a small scale, with an estimated 20,000 illegal small scale gold miners in the region. Manufacturing and infrastructure is on the rise in the province, and it is third in Indonesia for obtaining construction permits.

For many local communities agriculture, most notably rice, and smallholder crops provide income. South Sumatra is the leading province in smallholder coffee and rubber production, but palm oil, tea, and sugarcane are also common crops.

Threats to forest and diversity

The main drivers of forest degradation are commercial mining and logging. The majority of South Sumatra’s supply of timber comes from logging concessions edging into the Sembilang National Park in the Musi Banyuasin district. Subsequently, only half of the forest remains that stood in Sumatra in 1985, with South Sumatra suffering the second highest deforestation rate out of every province. South Sumatra’s lowlands have been particularly vulnerable due to their accessibility and 80% of deforestation occurred in these areas.

Deforestation in lowlands is a result of both commercial and local activity. A traditional form of swamp-rice cultivation called Sonor is utilised by local communities in South Sumatra during drought periods. During this process, exposed vegetation on the fringes of swamps are burnt and for every hectare sown with rice, double that area is burnt. During successful seasons Sonor cultivation contributes up to 10% of South Sumatra rice production. Communities also harvest Gelam (paperbark) trees from the Merang Peat Swamps to use as scaffolding in construction, and various smallholder plantations cut into both degraded and protect forest.

The deforestation that is occurring across Sumatra is having devastating effects on ecosystems and biodiversity. Land change is causing soil erosion and various complications for major waterways. Local communities living off the Musi River, South Sumatra’s largest, have seen it become increasingly silted. The habitat of the Sumatran tiger has been significantly affected, with palm oil being the direct cause of almost 20% of habitat destruction. Due to this, only 400 tigers remain in the wild, and at the current rates of deforestation their extinction is imminent. The Sumatran elephant was declared critically endangered as of 2012.

palm oil seedlings

Palm oil seedlings in Sumatra